Four Outstanding AR Optics for Less Than $400

If you splurge on a 1968 Shelby Mustang GT500-KR, you’re not going to fill the crank case with reclaimed Crisco just to save a few bucks. A similar principle applies to optics. Even with AR-15 prices falling faster than BlockBuster Video’s stock price, you’re still probably going to spend north of $600 on a rifle. Don’t cheat yourself by purchasing an optic not qualified for the task. Cheap optics can give you headaches from fogging, poor light transmission and inconsistent adjustment performance. Most frustrating of all are those times you can’t seem to zero your rifle, not matter what, until you find out the reticle in your scope is moving all over the place with recoil. Remember, friends don’t let friends buy those cheap no-name optics you see at gun shows.

Fortunately, you do’t have to spend more than the cost of your rifle on a quality optic. Here are some of my picks for high-quality optics that you can buy for less than $400 – usually a lot less.

Weaver Kaspa-Z Zombie Scope

Before you start with the hate mail over including a Zombie scope, hear me out. Besides, the dead could rise one day. Check out the audience on the Judge Judy Show, and you’ll see what I mean. Anyhow, my contacts at ATK pulled me aside some months ago and said “Do you want to know what one of our best value scopes is?” Being completely supportive of saving money, I asked to hear the story – and got the full pitch, along with an evaluation sample of the Weaver Kaspa-Z Zombie optic. If you’re not into the whole Zombie thing, that’s OK, as the markings on the scope are subtle. Most of the Zombie cosmetics are in the form of optional stickers.

You won't see a lot of Zombie features on this Weaver Kaspa-Z, but you will get a great deal on a general purpose AR optic.

You won’t see a lot of Zombie features on this Weaver Kaspa-Z, but you will get a great deal on a general purpose AR optic.

Here’s why it’s on this list. Built on a 30mm tube, it gathers plenty of light. With a 16 ounce weight, it’s sturdy enough to use as an impact weapon. The 1.5-6x zoom gives you fast, close range capability as well as precision out to the effective range of a 5.56mm round. The real beauty of this particular scope is the Z-Cirt reticle. It’s brilliant. Variable illumination (green of course) makes it easy to see in low light. The posts and hash marks are pre-mapped to known distances with a wide variety of .223 and 5.56 ammunition and serve double duty as range estimation tools. For example, the solid center dot corresponds to a Zombie’s head at 100 yards and the surrounding parentheses indicate the same target size at 100 yards. The first horizontal hash mark indicates 20 inches (average shoulder width) at 400 yards. With all the ranging and ballistic drop compensation functionality, this reticle is still fast at short to intermediate distances.

MSRP is $299.95, but you can find one on the street for about $199.

Nikon M-223 1-4×20 BDC 600

The Nikon M-223 1-4x20 with BDC-600 reticle.

The Nikon M-223 1-4×20 with BDC-600 reticle.

The M-223 is a one-inch tube model with pure 1x to 4x magnification – plenty for realistic .223 / 5.56mm ranges unless your usage is small varmint hunting at the outer limits of ballistic performance. Turrets adjust in ½ MOA increments with a total adjustment range of 100 MOA. Parallax is fixed at 100 yards, so any potential effect is negligible. Eye relief is generous at four inches, which makes placement on an MSR receiver easy – especially with Nikon’s aggressively cantilevered scope mounts or rings. Both one-piece and two-piece cantilever mounting options are available.

The reticle is developed specifically for 55 grain .223 Remington / 5.56mm NATO cartridges and offers hold points from 100 to 600 yards in 50 yard increments. If you shoot heavier projectiles like 77 grain, you’ll have to establish your own hold point distances out past a couple hundred yards.

MSRP is $299.95, but you can find this one for about $280. Check out other options in the Nikon AR family as you can find great deals on fixed power and higher magnification optics.

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Black Rifle Holiday Gift Guide

We’re getting into the gift giving, and more importantly, gift receiving season, so here are some of our picks for black rifle accessories. Some are old; some are new; some are expensive and others not, but all are useful additions to the modern sporting rifle.

Aimpoint Carbine Optic

Aimpoint Carbine OpticI’ve always loved the red dot options from Aimpoint. For me, since I like these on a defensive rifle, the “always on” feature is fantastic. You never, ever have to worry about turning your red dot on when you go for your rifle. Just leave it on all the time and make yourself a reminder to change the battery every year.

New for 2015 is the Aimpoint Carbine Optic. Made specifically for black rifles, it has a fixed-height mount pre-measured for back up iron sight co-witness. By making the optic platform specific, Aimpoint was able to reduce the price to an entry point level. It’s got a 2 MOA dot, and if you leave it on all the time, the batteries will last for about a year.

It’s just hitting the dealer shelves now, but you can find one here. MSRP is $393.

XProducts Drum Magazine

Here's a 50-round skeletonized model for .223 / 5.56mmI’ve never paid much attention to drum magazines for black rifles, at least until I checked out the X Products version. Made from steel and aluminum, these are no plastic discount catalog gimmicks. They’re getting to be a big deal on the 3-gun circuit for good reason. Sporting a 50-round capacity, the overall height is still lower than a normal 30-round magazine, do you can dive for prone position shooting and get even lower to the ground.

They’re not just for 2.23/5.56mm black rifles either. Check out the XProducts website to see options for .308 and other calibers.

You can find a 50 round standard drum for about $200 at Brownells.

Badger Ordnance Tactical Charging Handle Latch

Badger charging handleOK, forget the “tactical” part of this product. It’s just handy if your black rifle has any type of receiver-mounted optic. The latch is enlarged and extended, so even if you have a scope that gets in the way of standard charging handle operation, it’s easy to reach. You don’t have to do digging underneath the rear of the optic to find the charging handle.

You can buy just the extended latch and mount it to your existing charging handle or you can just buy the complete charging handle with the bigger latch built in. The neat part is that Badger makes the extended latch in right-hand, left-hand and both-side configurations.

Available at Brownells. The latch only is less than $20, while the complete charging handle is about $100. You can pick up the ambidextrous model for about $120.

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Scope Review: Hawke Panorama EV 3-9×40 AO

The Hawke Panorama EV 3-9×40 AO is the third Hawke Optic we’ve tested over the past couple of years. A while back, we shot some cocks with the Hawke Sidewinder Tactical IR and more recently, we tinkered with the Hawke 1×32 Multi-Purpose for crossbows and AR platforms. In both previous cases we found the Hawke offerings to be great values. Not only because of features for the dollar, but performance approaching that of much pricier optics.

The Hawke Optics Panorama EV 6-9x40 AO mounted on a Rock River Arms 6.8 SPC

The Hawke Optics Panorama EV 6-9×40 AO mounted on a Rock River Arms 6.8 SPC

Last January we got a bug up our butts to acquire a 6.8 Remington SPC AR. After waiting nearly 17 years to have it delivered from Rock River Arms, it finally arrived. And yes, it was worth the wait, although we would suggest that Rock River Arms spend a little more time communicating with customers on long wait lists. Even the occasional “we still have no idea when parts will arrive, but we wanted to let you know we are working diligently on your order” message would go a long way when wait times approach a year or more. When the situation stinks, communicate. A lot. But that’s a separate discussion.

Finger adjustable turrets are resettable and have 1/4 MOA increments.

Finger adjustable turrets are resettable and have 1/4 MOA increments.

Anyway, given the interesting performance window of the 6.8 SPC cartridge and its heavier (115 grain for these tests) projectiles, we felt that a mid-range variable scope would be a great fit. After a little consultation with the optics gurus at Hawke, we settled on the Panorama EV 3-9×40 with a mil-dot reticle. While the Panorama is available with three different reticles at last count, we’ve just got a thing for mil-dot scopes. Always moving them from rifle to rifle and endlessly tinkering with different ammo loads, you simply can’t beat the flexibility.

Click ‘n giggles

We found this to be a really versatile optic. One of the reasons for its versatility is range of adjustment. Just internal to the scope, you’ve got about 400 clicks of windage and elevation. At ¼ MOA (¼” at 100 yards) per click, that’s about 100 inches of adjustment at that range. That’s a lot. Of course you always want to line the scope up as closely as possible physically, without relying on internal adjustment to establish zero, but having the option provides some flexibility in your choice of mount and the effective range of the scope.

Turrets

A front parallax ring adjusts from 15 meters to infinity.

A front parallax ring adjusts from 15 meters to infinity.

The turrets on this optic feature screw caps to keep things where you set them. When adjustments need to be made, unscrew the caps and you’ll see finger-adjustable turrets with ¼ MOA click adjustments. The turrets are resettable, so when you establish the desired zero for your rifle, just loosen the two small phillips-head screws on each turret This will allow the turret ring to spin freely and you can align your zero and the indicated zero mark on each turret.

Shooting this sucker

We mounted the Hawke Panorama EV 3-9×40 AO on a Rock River Arms 6.8 SPC AR. For those not versed in this chambering, it’s a .270 projectile stuffed into an AR platform. Bolt, barrel and magazine are a tad different, but the lower is a standard AR configuration. In fact, the lower shown in the pictures here is a Rock River Arms LAR-15 (.223 / 5.56mm) model.

Check out this 64 click box! Especially the return to zero on the sixth shot.

Check out this 64 click box! Especially the return to zero on the sixth shot.

The first project, after getting it approximately zeroed was to shoot a six shot box. We set this up at 50 yards so we could do some fairly extreme scope adjustment and still keep all the shots on paper. Using the aim point show in the photo here, we shot a center target, then proceeded to make click adjustments to create a box 64 clicks on each side. For the sixth shot, the scope was returned to zero to make sure the impact point was the same as the initial shot. All six shots were fired using the same aim point, so we were simply moving impact points around using the scope’s internal adjustment.

Wow! The photo here speaks for itself. The corner shots impacted exactly where expected and even more impressively, the final shot ended up touching the hole from the first. Very nice.

The next thing we wanted to test was possible impact shift at different zoom levels. Using the same point of aim, a shot was fired using the lowest 3x setting. A second shot was fired using 6x zoom and a final shot fully zoomed at 9x. Again, as you can see, all shots impacted within the expected area.

We also verified that point of impact doesn't change with level of magnification.

We also verified that point of impact doesn’t change with level of magnification.

The reticle is etched and is perfectly visible in daylight without using the illumination features. However, for early morning, and of day, or other low-light conditions, you can turn on red or blue illumination.

Closing Arguments

We were really pleased with the performance of this scope. The only thing lacking with this optic is the enclosed flip-up covers, which did not stay on as solidly as I would have liked. Scope covers are a matter of preference however. Folks like the rubber band “bras” and others like flip-up caps. I don’t mind adding my choice of covers to this optic – it’s well worth the money regardless.

Available direct from Hawke for about $240, you simply cannot beat the value of this scope. While we tested it on an AR platform, it would make a great addition to a hunting rifle as well.

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Scope Review: Hawke Optics 1×32 Multi-Purpose Scope

The Hawke Optics 1×32 Multi Purpose Scope plays well with others

Somewhat like Captain Jack Sparrow, the Hawke Optics 1×32 Multi-Purpose scope easily adapts to all sorts of situations. Originally designed as a crossbow optic, people quickly realized that it was fit for more combustible applications. As I’ll show in more detail, it has 3 easy-to acquire aiming points which you can use to identify both near and far zeros for your particular rifle, crossbow or shotgun.

Hawke 1x32 Multi Purpose Scope  3

The Hawke 1×32 Multi Purpose Scope plays well with others. Crossbows, AR-15’s and shotguns to name a few.

 Just the facts about the Hawke Optics 1×32 Multi-Purpose scope…

Hawke 1x32 Multi Purpose Scope illumination

The left side-wheel operates the illuminated reticle. Both red and green illumination is available and each color offers five levels of brightness. The “crosses” illuminate – see the reticle image below for detail. The illumination feature is powered by a single CR2032 battery – available most anywhere. Just unscrew the reticle brightness control knob cap to replace the battery.

 Hawke 1x32 Multi Purpose Scope windage and elevation

As this is a 1x optic, you’re probably not going to use the windage and elevation controls while shooting. They’re more for adjusting your zero as you change rifles and ammunition types. You might even move this to a crossbow! Each click adjusts the point of impact by 1/2 MOA, or just a hair over a half an inch at 100 yards. I found this to be plenty of granularity to get my favorite .223 load on target. The turrets are finger adjustable, and once you get your settings right, just screw the protective caps back on.

Hawke 1x32 Multi Purpose Scope reticle

Clarity of the scope was really good, with no discernible loss of focus or brightness as you look to the edges of the scope. The photo here shows a view at a berm about 110 yards away. The long horizontal and vertical bars made targeting fast and easy. Also as this photo shows, the cross aiming points show as black when illumination is not turned on. There’s really no need to use the illumination feature unless you’re in early or end of day low light conditions. One more thing – the top of the vertical bar is another aiming point – we’ll talk more about that below.

Hawke 1x32 Multi-Purpose Scope coated lens

Lenses are multi-coated and I found visibility to be good. While the objective is 32mm, the tube is 1 inch in diameter.

Hawke 1x32 Multi-Purpose Scope mount

Keeping this an all Hawke Optics solution, I used the Hawke 1″ 2-Piece, Reach Forward mounts. As you can see in the photo, this left quite a bit of remaining adjustment play both on the rail and in the scope rings. The eye relief in the Hawke Optics 1×32 Multi-Purpose scope is very generous so you can put this scope pretty much anywhere on the receiver rail. The specs indicate that eye relief is 8 inches. It’s not intended to be a scout scope so you’ll get some shadowing if you try to put it on the front rail. While testing, I placed the scope so the rear lens was about an inch forward of the rear of the receiver. This provided great visibility and unhindered access to the charging handle.

Hawke 1x32 Multi Purpose BRC reticle

Hawke Optics offers free ballistics software for Mac, PC, iPhones and iPads and Android devices. The BRC software has the Hawke reticles and a bunch of cartridge profiles built-in, so you can quickly tell it you’re using the Hawke 1×32 Multi-Purpose scope with an AR-15. As I was using practice hand loads, I adjusted the actual velocity to 2,700 feet per second instead of the default 3,250. As this is a 1x optic, and I’m half blind, I chose a 200 yard zero. not to actually shoot at 200 yards, but because the “near” zero point for the primary aiming cross works out to 42.2 yards. You can see on the image here that the left columns shows near zero distances while the column on the right shows far zero distances. Using my specially calibrated tennis shoes, I paced off 42 yards and added a bit more. Sure enough, I was right on target with the primary (top) aiming point in the reticle.
Here’s where it gets interesting. The Hawke BRC software tells me, that for this reticle, with my specific load and velocity, what the aiming points are for the lower cross and the top of the vertical post – 6.3 and 4.3 yards respectively. So I moved my target in to 6.3 yards, again using my Imperial system calibrated shoes and paced off 6.3 yards. Again, right on target. same with the top of the vertical post aim point at 4.3 yards. Depending on where you set your primary zero, and which load you use, you can develop a useful scenario where you know point of impact for both very short and very long-range. This is particularly handy with AR-15 applications. As the center of AR-15 optics is generally about 2.5 inches above the bore, you normally have to compensate for short-range shots. With the Hawke 1×32 Multi-Purpose scope, you simply use one of the lower two aiming points to put you right on target at “inside the home” distances.
Hawke 1x32 Multi-Purpose BRC software

The Hawke 1×32 Multi-Purpose BRC software comes preloaded with all of the Hawke Optics reticles so you can easily work out point of aim and impact solutions. Here’s the data we used for AR-15 testing with a 2,700 foot per second .223 Remington load.

 

Closing Arguments

The practical flexibility of this optic is just plain cool. I’ve been using it on an AR-15 with great success. My daughter just got a Barnett Jackal crossbow, so the weekend project will be to equip it with the Hawke 1×32 Multi-Purpose scope and see how that works. Our first step will be to configure the Hawke BRC software with the Jackal’s ballistic data. Here’s the initial report based on the bolt velocity of the Jackal. By the way, crossbow data is preloaded into Hawke BRC software and you can tweak variables like velocity.

Hawke BRC Crossbow data

The Hawke BRC Software give us this projected aim point and range data for the Barnett Jackal crossbow.

So, looking at the right column of far aim point data, we see that the three default aim points correspond to ranges of 20, 40 and 50 yards.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t touch on the value of this one. Retailing at $129.99, the Hawke 1×32 Multi-Purpose scope is a great option to consider if you’re on a tight budget. Add the benefit of moving it around from rifle to crossbow to shotgun and you’ve got a winner.

Available Here Hawke 1×32 Multi-Purpose Scope

 

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Gun Review: Springfield Armory M1A Standard Rifle

Springfield Armory M1A Standard Rifle

Springfield Armory M1A Standard

The Springfield Armory M1A Standard model is the civilian version of the battle classic M14

This rifle is beast. Not a beast. Just beast. If you have teenage kids, you might have already heard things like video games, high school athletes and cars described as “beast.” Apparently it’s a subtle, yet cool, form of praise. Kids these days don’t generally describe praise-worthy things as “richly robust with just the proper hint of panache.”

The Springfield Armory M1A Standard rifle is beast because of its homage (another non-teen word) to military history. The M1A is the Springfield Armory produced civilian version of the battle-tested M14 rifle. The M14 was introduced to field use during the Korean war and is (roughly speaking) the next generation of the famous M1 Garand that had such a dramatic impact during World War II. In fact, the famous World War II general, George S. Patton, called the M1 Garand “the greatest battle implement ever devised.” We’re not exactly sure what actor George C. Scott had to say about it, but he did play Patton on TV.

After the war, The M14 brought a few changes to the M1 Garand era. Fully automatic capability, 7.62mm / .308 ammo chambering and a detachable box magazine – to name a few. The M1A as a civilian rifle does not offer fully automatic capability, but maintains the detachable box magazine feature and chambers the .308 round. One other notable difference is the lack of a bayonet lug on the M1A. I know, it’s tragic, but it keeps the politicians from hemorrhaging bio-diesel. If you’re hell-bent on mounting an infantry charge down your street, you’ll just have to improvise with duct tape and a Ka-Bar knife.

A Closer Look at the Springfield Armory M1A Standard

 Springfield Armory M1A safety

Safety first! Just like the M1 Garand, the Springfield Armory M1A uses a lever in the front of the trigger guard as the safety. As shown in this picture, the gun is on safe. Nudge the lever forward with the back of your knuckle and it will snap forward, out of the trigger guard, into the firing position. It’s the same basic mechanism used on the M1 Garand. Be careful with this type of safety – to put the rifle on safe, you’re pulling backwards with your trigger finger! Make sure you’re pulling the safety and not the trigger!

 Springfield Armory M1A rear sight

The rear sight on the Springfield Armory M1A has a windage adjustment dial on the right and an elevation adjustment dial on the left. On the M1A Standard rifle, elevation and windage are adjustable in 1 minute of angle (about 1 inch at 100 yards) clicks. The windage dial gives you 16 clicks in either direction and you have sufficient elevation adjustment to compensate to about 1,100 yards. Springfield Armory includes a nifty article by Scott Duff and John Miller that tells you exactly how to properly zero your M1A. The elevation adjustment knob was tight, as to be expected and desired in my opinion. I found the windage elevation knob on the test rifle to be somewhat beyond tight, and I’ve been working out to get in shape for the upcoming Thumb Wars of the Stars special. I tried smothering it with Activia Butt-Modulating Yogurt to “loosen things up” but that didn’t seem to help. Don’t tell the folks at Springfield Armory, but I had to cover it with a cleaning rag and muscle it the first few times. Whatever you do, DON’T use pliers – this will almost certainly crack the adjustment dial. Don’t get me wrong, this adjustment should be firm and very deliberate as you don’t want it moving around on its own. Just be aware that there might be some break-in period required to get things loosened up. And it did loosen up with some use. Before venturing off to any foreign wars, be sure to try the adjustments and break in accordingly.

Springfield Armory M1A mag release

The Springfield Armory M1A Standard rifle ships with a 10 round box magazine. You can order factory 5 or 20 round magazines using the nifty Springfield Loaded Coupon that we’ll talk about in a minute. The magazine release lever is on the back side of the magazine well and releases the magazine when pushed forward. It’s about an inch and a half forward of the safety lever, so you just barely have to adjust your grip to reach it with the firing hand. Seating a magazine in the M1A takes just a bit of practice. The easiest way is to insert it into the magazine well, angled backwards, and rock it into position. It sounds complicated, but is very smooth once you get the hang of it. And the magazine makes a satisfying click when it seats. You won’t be in doubt about it’s locked status.
 Springfield Armory M1A aperture sight The rear aperture sight features fine checkering on the back side to reduce glare. We found this to be a very useful feature! It’s one of those details that no one notices in the store, but really makes a difference on the range. Note the protective wings that help prevent the aperture sight from getting abused.

Springfield Armory M1A stripper clip guide

On the top of the receiver, at the back of the magazine well, you’ll see a stripper clip guide. While the M1A has detachable box magazines, it can still be reloaded with stripper clips from the top. We didn’t use this in testing, but know it’s there. In case you want to get super authentic. The dovetail for the stripper clip guide has a second use as a mounting point for the scope base. We’ll cover that in detail in the next article where we mount a rail base and scope to this M1A.
 Springfield Armory M1A front sling A sturdy sling mount is placed towards the front of the stock on the bottom side. It swivels back and forth, but not side to side. At the rear, just ahead of the rifle butt, is a similar, but fixed, sling mount. Somehow the Springfield Armory M1A Standard just screams for a traditional leather loop sling. No worries, you can get one cheap using the Springfield Loaded Coupon mentioned a little later!

Springfield Armory M1A front sight wings

Like the rear sight, the front post is protected by sturdy steel wings on either side. And the post is not a wimpy little AR type either – it’s a steel blade that tapers like a wedge towards the front. This helps the post look sharp and crisp from the back. And it’s more aerodynamic when charging the trenches at a full run. The sight blade and wings assembly is movable side to side so you can zero the rifle (for windage) and have your windage dial on the receiver exactly centered. A hex locking screw keeps everything in place once you’ve got it set. One other thing to note about the front sight blade. It’s width can be used for rough range estimation. It will exactly cover a 20 inch wide target at about 300 yards.
 Springfield Armory M1A buttplate No, it’s not a collapsible bayonet to protect the rear flank. Nor does it make the M1A more aerodynamic, although you can probably use it while speed walking. But seriously, the fold-out butt plate has a purpose. You can lean it on top of your shoulder for a little extra stability. It’s an interesting feature, especially when shooting from a standing position or moving. It’s one of those things you just have to try to see if it works for you.

Springfield Armory M1A cleaning kit

Unfortunately you can’t quite fit two rolls of Mentos breath mints in the stock storage compartments. However, you can fit the original Springfield Armory cleaning and oiling kit. The top hole is about 10 inches deep while the bottom one is about 6 ½ inches deep. Why waste all that potential storage space in the stock? Later, we’ll mention some factory cleaning and maintenance supplies that will fit perfectly into these two chambers.
 Springfield Armory M1A bolt lock On the left side of the receiver is the bolt lock lever. If the magazine is in place, and empty, the bolt will lock back on it’s own. If you want it locked open while the magazine is out, or full, use the bolt lock lever.

 Springfield Armory M1A gas

About six inches behind the front  sight is the gas port in the barrel and the gas tube below. The nut on the end is removable for cleaning and maintenance. The handy multi-purpose tool (discussed below) will remove this easily. Remember when cleaning that the gas system is supposed to be dry, so no oil or grease in there!

 

Shooting Performance

As the Springfield Armory M1A Standard comes with iron peep sights and no provision for mounting a scope without accessories, we’re not going to address accuracy in this article. Trying to do so would tell you more about the poor state of our eyesight than performance of this rifle! However, we have a second part of this article coming out shortly which details the process of mounting and using the optional scope mounting base. Once we get a scope mounted, we’ll do some accuracy testing with various .308 loads and report on the results.

We did shoot a variety of ammunition through the M1A for function testing and just plain fun. As you might expect from this design, digesting lots and lots of different ammunition was not a problem!

We shot and choreographed the following loads:

American Eagle 7.62x51mm M1A – 2,637 feet per second

Black Hills Match Hollow Point – 2,565 fps

Nosler Match Grade 168 grain Custom Competition – 2,548 fps

Winchester 120 grain PDX1 Defender – 3,034 fps

In addition to the factory loads, we assembled four different hand loads – all with 168 grain Sierra Matchking projectiles. We developed upper mid-range loads for 2,550 to 2,650 feet per second velocity performance using Hodgdon BL-C(2), IMR 4064, IMR 4895 and Ramshot TAC powders. We experienced no feed or function issues with any of the loads tested.

Felt recoil on this rifle was polite and relatively genteel considering that it has a not very soft steel butt plate. Between the M1A’s 9.3 pound weight and gas-driven semi-automatic action, much of the perceived recoil is dampened.

Paperwork

The Springfield Armory M1A Standard Rifle arrives in a large cardboard box which includes a variety of instruction paperwork and other extra-special surprises.

The nicest surprise was a printed “booklet bound” copy of the  TM 9-1005-223-12 Department of the Army Technical Manual. Subtitled Operator and Organizational Maintenance Manual – 7.62mm Rifle M14 and Rifle Bipod M2, this 76 page booklet, dated January 1963, is the lightly burnt sugar on Creme Brûlée for any self-respecting gun geek.

Another bonus surprise is a reproduced article by Wayne Faatz entitled The Mysterious Slam Fire.

Springfield also includes a reproduced article by Scott A. Duff and John M. Miller. This one, From the Bench – Zeroing M1 and M1A Service Rifles, walks the reader through easy to understand instructions on how to zero either standard or National Match M1A rifles.

And another! As with all Springfield Armory products we’ve received, a M1A Loaded Coupon allows you to order accessories like extra magazines, cheek pieces, tools, cases, and M1A cleaning accessories at deeply discounted prices. The discount depends on the specific item, but most are available at 20% to 70% off retail. As an example, the Springfield Armory factory .308 20 round magazine sells for $37.50 instead of $54.95. Of course, most of the items on the list are available in third party manufactured versions, but if you want genuine factory accessories, take advantage of the one time use coupon. You can order as much as you want of each item – but one time only.

Oh, and a basic instruction book is included that covers operation, ammo information (mil-spec only recommended), cleaning, and basic maintenance.

Stripping and Cleaning

The subtitle of this section got your attention didn’t it?

Sorry to burst your bubble, but we’re talking field stripping here – with the primary intention of cleaning and lubrication.

Basic takedown is simple. But first, remove the magazine, then check the chamber to make sure there is no cartridge there. Now check it again. Now flip on the safety just for good measure.

Springfield Armory M1A trigger housing removal

The barrel and receiver assembly is locked into the stock by the trigger assembly. To remove the trigger assembly, pull the rear base of the trigger guard (where it meets the stock) towards the butt of the rifle. It will take some muscle!

Springfield Armory M1A trigger system removal

Pulling the trigger guard backwards will release it from a catch, allowing it to pivot towards the muzzle of the rifle. Pull it up all the way and the trigger assembly will come out in one piece.

Springfield Armory M1A field strip

Now the barreled receiver will lift out of the stock. It may need a gentle nudge to get it moving.

There you have it! This simple, no-tools, field strip procedure will give you pretty good access for basic cleaning and lubrication of the main parts.

Accessories and Upgrades

Original Cleaning Kit

M1A cleaning kit

The M1A multi-purpose tool and cleaning kit are accessories that fit in two hollowed-out stock tubes

You can order an original military style maintenance and cleaning kit and store just about all of it in the stock. Shown in the photo is a four-piece cleaning rod, M1A multi-purpose tool, ratcheted chamber cleaning brush, bore cleaning brush and lubricant container. Pack that stuff into the stock compartments and you’ll have it when you need it!

Magazines

The rifle includes a single ten round magazine, but you can order  additional magazines from Springfield Armory in 5, 10, 15 and 20 round capacities. The 5 round magazine comes in a standard box configuration or a low-profile sporter configuration. Perhaps you want to hunt with your M1A? Check your state laws before trying to order different magazines!

Scope Mounts

Springfield Armory offers two different receiver scope mounts for the M1A – one constructed of solid steel and the other aluminum. Both are custom designed to attach to the receiver on the left side and via the stripper clip guide dovetail at the rear. We obtained a steel scope mount and installed it with a Hawke Optics Sidewinder 30 10x scope. We’ll cover that in a follow up article. Springfield Armory also offers a Scout Scope forward mount.

Other

Given the history of the M14 platform and Springfield Armory’s adherence to the core original design, a number of other accessories are readily available from Springfield and third party vendors. Cheek rests, replacement match sights, tritium night sight posts, muzzle brakes and more can all be found at Brownells.com.

Springfield Armory M1A Hawke Optics Sidewinder IR

In part 2 of this article, we’ll mount a Hawke Optics Sidewinder Tactical using the Springfield Armory steel receiver mount

Closing Arguments

The Springfield Armory M1A Standard Rifle is, well, kind of nostalgic. True to the basic M1 Garand and M14 military rifle design, it’s a sturdy and reliable war horse. The iron sights feel natural and are quite effective. A good rifleman is expected to hit targets out to 500 yards with them. We’re going to add a scope for fun and some accuracy testing, but odds are, the scope will come off as soon as we’re finished. Somehow, adding optics to this gun just seems wrong and unnecessary.

We loved the Springfield Armory M1A Standard. From it’s walnut stock to iron sights to classic action design, it’s a natural combination of form, function and fun.

Our Rating

4 Nuns Four Nuns! We’re not sure if this is a 4 Nun product because of the history of the design, Springfield Armory’s adherence to that design (mostly) or it’s construction and operation. Probably some of each. Like a Ruger 1022, every household needs one of these rifles.

Check out other My Gun Culture product reviews here!

 

Accessories available at Brownells

Insanely Practical Guide to Gun Holsters

Hawke Optics Sidewinder Tactical Scope – A Video Tour

A nice scope for the money!

Review: Hawke Optics Sidewinder Tactical Scope – Cool, but can it shoot the cocks?

The Good
The value on this scope is great. It’s clear, consistent and very tactical looking – all for about 400 bucks.
The Bad
The battery on our illuminated reticle died fairly quickly. Just to note, the green setting appears to burn a good bit more juice. On the plus side, the etched reticle is sharp without any illumination.
The Ugly
Our test would have been easier had the Sidewinder been equipped with a .5186246418338 click adjustment. See below for more on this point. We’ll get over it though.
Our Rating
3 Nuns Four Nuns! For the money, you can’t go wrong with this one.

Hawke Optics Sidewinder Tactical Scope

Approximate Retail Price: $409.99

www.hawkeoptics.com

The Hawke Optics Sidewinder Tactical scope has all the cool goodies:

  • Illuminated glass-etched reticle in red AND green with variable brightness controls for each
  • 2″ side-wheel parallax adjustment
  • 1/4 MOA tactical turrets. Besides looking exceptionally cool, they offer push/pull locking and easy zero adjustment
  • 4″ removable sunshade which looks even more exceptionally cool than the tactical turrets
  • Mil-Dot reticle
  • Multi-Coated lenses

But can it shoot the cocks?

We intended to find out. More on that in a minute.

We met Brad and Steve from Hawke Sport Optics at this years POMA Conference and got a thorough tour of the Hawke lineup. After some discussion, we elected to run the Hawke Optics Sidewinder Tactical through a comprehensive My Gun Culture evaluation protocol. We’ve been looking for a great opportunity to use a big word like protocol for a while now, so this evaluation is already off to a pulchritudinous (yet another big word) start.

We selected the Sidewinder Tactical as a great match for our test rifle – a Savage 112 in .22-250 caliber. This rifle is an accuracy beast, easily shooting around the 1/2 MOA zone as long as one points it in the right direction.

The Walking Tour

Our evaluation model was the HK4034 10x fixed power with mil-dot reticle. Other models in the Tactical Series offer variable power in 4.5-14x, 6.5-20x and 8.5x25x. It’s a 30mm tube design with a 42mm objective lens so make sure you’ve got the proper rings and bases of adequate height.

We loved the attention to detail in the packaging. The Sidewinder Tactical came in a custom foam-lined hard case with a carry handle for safe transport. Packed in various foam cutouts were the scope itself, a 4″ sunshade, lens cleaning cloth, metal lens covers, a spare battery for the illuminated reticle, tools for turret adjustment, a removable large wheel for parallax adjustment, and owners manual. Inclusion of the little things is a big deal to us as it means the product is immediately usable – without extra trips to the store.

The included lens covers were also a nice touch. Made of metal and a screw-in design, they’re solid and secure. The only gripe we had with them is that the front one will not also mount on the included 4″ sun shade. If you intend to look cool at the range by leaving that on, you have to find a different front lens cover option.

The other stand out feature was the clarity. Loved it. Especially for the price. The sight picture was clear and crisp across the whole diameter of visible area. Speaking of optical characteristics, the eye relief is about 4″ and field of view at 100 yards is almost 12 feet on the fixed 10x model we tested. The ocular lens is easily focused and features a solid locking ring to prevent movement once you get it set just right.

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